Don't Talk to Me by J. Douglas Johnson

Don't Talk to Me

Early last year, I attended a Christian conference where the panel was asked to weigh in on "dialogue," or whether orthodox Christians should negotiate with everyone who disagrees with us about, well, more or less everything. Since these negotiations always come down to what the orthodox are ready to give up, I would love a seat at the table if I could begin the negotiations by asking our opponents how far they would be willing to go on, say, a contraception ban. But I liked Rusty Reno's response: "I am already on record as being against all dialogue." That received a good chuckle from the audience, but seriously, consider the following:

Josh Barro is a senior editor and columnist for Business Insider. Until the election of 2016, Barro presented himself as a Republican member of the political center-right, and over the years he has written for publications that market themselves as conservative, such as National Review. But Barro identifies as both a homosexual and an atheist, and he gets a little cranky with Christians like Ryan T. Anderson, who don't applaud him
for that.

Seven years ago, Barro engaged in a Twitter spat with Anderson over natural law. Natural law proponents hold that there are universal fixed points for human beings across time and space that are as true today as they were in the times of Aristotle, Aquinas, and Confucius. Critical theory (the antecedent to critical race theory or CRT) is pretty much natural law's opposite, and it holds that notions of right and wrong and norms of any kind are all hogwash. And so, in his exchange with Anderson, Barro tweeted, "Natural law is the right's version of critical theory." Oh, har-dee-har-har. See what he did there?

This all came back to me recently when Yale professor Jason Stanley tweeted, "Twitter is mostly just a series on intentional misinterpretations intended to create a mob." A day earlier the same Professor Stanley had tweeted, "The call to replace CRT by 'natural law' is a dog whistle to white Christian nationalism." About the only response I can come up with for that one is, "Well, gee."

So getting back to that question about dialogue, I wonder how those who propose such things imagine the conversation going exactly?

J. Douglas Johnson is Executive Editor of Touchstone.

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